Cherry Creek football coach Dave Logan turned his best player loose in the Class 5A state championship game, which was held Dec. 5 at the CSU-Pueblo ThunderBowl Stadium.
Myles Purchase, a defensive back and kick returner during the regular season, was inserted as a wildcat quarterback during the Bruins' playoff run, and the move to that formation paid dividends.
The 5-foot-11, 170-pound senior who has committed to play at Iowa State rushed for two touchdowns, recovered a fumble and intercepted a pass as top-seeded Cherry Creek blanked No. 2 Valor Christian, 21-0, to win Creek's second straight state title.
Creek was 14-0 last season and concluded a 9-0 campaign this year in an abbreviated season plagued with COVID-19 restrictions. The win over Valor was the 23rd consecutive victory for the Bruins, who last lost in the 2018 state championship game against the Eagles.
Valor suffered its first loss in eight games and never got its fast-paced, high-scoring offense in gear against the Bruins, who took a 21-0 lead into the scoreless second half.
Purchase scored on a 31-yard run to put Creek in front with 7:45 left in the first quarter. He scored on a three-yard run on the Bruins' second possession of the game with 34 seconds still to be played in the first quarter.
“I said it before the season started and before this game that he's (Purchase) the best all-around football player in the state,” said Logan. “He's a multi-talented athlete. He's very smart. He has great hands, he can cover, he can tackle, can run routes and can catch the ball. I have yet to find something he can't do.”
Purchase pointed to the team's hard work in a difficult season for help securing the back-to-back championships for Creek.
“It feels great,” he repeated. “I will give credit to all my teammates and people that helped me out and all the coaches that put in the work to make me the best player I could be. It felt great to be the wildcat. We waited until the playoffs to put it in. I was just happy I was put in the position to make plays.”
Purchase, who had 103 yards and scored two touchdowns in Creek's 35-7 semifinal win over Pomona, finished with 113 yards rushing against Valor, and his offense added to the 106 rushing yards that James Walker II gained against the Eagles.
Creek senior quarterback Julian Hammond was 18-22-1 for 180 yards and one touchdown. He tossed a 33-yard TD pass to Chase Penry, who had eight catches in the game. Gunnar Helm caught five passes.
“I felt overall we played good but we should have cleaned up some of the penalties,” said Hammond. “It was good to see we could move the ball. It feels great to know I could lead the team to two state championships in my three years.”
Creek, which according to Logan had five or six players on this year's team that were playing in the 2018 loss to Valor, finished with over 400 yards in total offense but missed two field goals and had 13 penalties for 111 yards. Valor, a team that came into the title contest averaging 39 points and 410 yards of total offense per game, was held to 178 yards of total offense and was saddled with the shutout setback.
Valor's Gavin Sawchuck, the state's top Class 5A rusher during the regular season, broke loose on a 57-yard run in the third quarter, but the Bruins contained him to 153 yards rushing on 23 carries.
Sawchuck's long run set up Valor for a chance to get on the scoreboard with a first down at the Creek 14-yard line, but Eagles' quarterback Sean McNair was under heavy pressure on a fourth down pass, fumbled, and Branden Jackson recovered as the Bruins ended the scoring threat.
Valor's quick running of offensive plays didn't seem to bother the Bruins defense.
“We worked on it all week,” said Purchase. “It was the thing we worked on every day and that's the thing we knew would make the game for us. Basically it was just making sure we got back to the line of scrimmage and made sure we got the calls from the sidelines.”
Valor coach Donnie Yantis hopes his team learned something from the loss, which gave Creek a 2-1 edge in state title games against the Eagles.
“I'm proud of our team that battled through adversity all season with this pandemic,” Yantis said. “It wasn't our night, we didn't play well and didn't coach well. Hats off to coach Logan, his staff and players. They performed well and earned the win. We will be back. This type of loss will be a motivation to our program moving forward into the off season."
It was the 11th state title won by Cherry Creek. Logan has coached nine for state championship teams, including three at Creek, which made its third consecutive appearance in a state title affair.
“It's always exciting when you finish at the end of the year and have a chance to win,” said Logan. “It never gets old. The faces change, every season is unique and every team is unique. It's hard to do (win back-to-back state titles). This season was a big challenge for my kids, my staff and myself. This is my 28th year and I never had a season like this with so many distractions, so many protocols and so many things you couldn't do in practice. We tried to abide by them all and it made it very challenging."
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